Chef Michael Kornick, a five-time James Beard nominee, and restaurateur David Morton of Morton’s Steakhouse are teaming up with David Grossman, a franchise expert, to expand the DMK Burger Bar concept into an international chain. This move makes Kornick the first James Beard-nominated chef to launch a franchise.

Combining 88 years of restaurant industry experience, Grossman, Kornick, and Morton have set aggressive growth goals. The eight-year-old brand currently operates five locations in the Chicago area, but new locations will range between larger stores that serve alcohol and smaller burger bars. Eater’s Ashok Selvam reports that the chain plans to open 400 locations in the next 10 years, but DMK will begin its growth in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin, where it will soon start looking for franchise applicants.

Franchise fees are set at $30,000 for the first unit with 20 percent discounts for additional units. Startup costs vary by location size but could cost about $400,000 to $450,000 for smaller stores or up about $750,000 to $800,000 for larger stores.

DMK Burger Bar is the largest non-grocery buying chain in the Midwest. The brand’s menu features 100 percent grass-fed beef, Colorado lamb, and all-natural turkey and veggie burgers with custom-made potato flour buns, as well as hand-cut russet potato fries served with Parmesan truffle cream.

The chain has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It has also been awarded for Best Fries in Chicago by Chicago Magazine, Best Veggie Burger in Chicago by Chicago Tribune. BMK was named as one of the 10 Best Burgers in America by Fox News, one of the 5 Best New Burger Concepts in America by Bon Appetit, and named Chicago’s Most Iconic Burger by Eater.

The demand for the award-winning concept to expand outside of Chicago has been high, Morton said in the press release.

“Longtime local customers and visitors to Chicago would often approach us to please franchise the premium burger concept,” he said. “We know the model and culture we’ve created are just as crave-able as the menu items we serve. Our franchise partners will have access to a major chef who is always the smartest guy in the room when it comes to food.”

News, DMK Burger Bar